2016 National Champions: Penn State wrestles its way back to the top
Over this past weekend, the Penn State powerhouse returned to the top winnings its fifth national championship in the past six years.
By Saturday afternoon of the NCAA championships, the Lions had already clinched the NCAA title before the finals had even begun.
Penn State ended up in first place in the team standings after the second session and continued to extend its lead from there.
The team started with nine wrestlers in the mix and ended with five in championship matches. As expected, Nico Megaludis, Zain Retherford, Jason Nolf, Bo Nickal and Morgan McIntosh all made their way to the final round.
Megaludis escaped facing Ohio State’s No. 1 Nathan Tomasillo for the third time this season and instead went up against Thomas Gilman from Iowa, who upset Tomasillo in the semifinals.
His 6-2 victory kicked off the final session on high note for Penn State fans and his touching celebration coach Sanderson in the corner of the mat was a rare siting emotion from Megaludis. It was a picture perfect end to his career as a Nittany Lion.
Retherford also faced a Hawkeye in his final match, No. 2 Brandon Sorenson. Up to that point in the tournament, Retherford had tallied three pins and one tech fall playing a crucial role in Penn State’s early clinching of the team title. He finished his championship run in a similar fashion with another bonus-point victory over Sorenson, 10-1. The Penn State sophomore closed out his season undefeated with a record of 34-0.
In perhaps the most anticipated match of the final rounds was Nolf’s rematch with No. 1 Isaiah Martinez from Illinois. The first time the two met in the regular season, Nolf pinned Martinez. The second time they met at Big Ten’s Martinez downright out wrestled Nolf for the Big Ten title. This time, Martinez prevailed again. He mastered Nolf’s wrestling style and knew exactly how to counteract his shots. Martinez wrestled smart and timed his final takedown so perfectly it made Penn State fans do a double take. A well-deserved win for Martinez, but Nolf will be back with a vengeance next year.
Another heartbreak came at 174 when wild child Nickal lost a surprising match to No. 11 Myles Martin of Ohio State. A scramble at the edge of the mat in the late in the second period ended in four near fall points for Martin and a 4-9 deficit for Nickal. He put up a fight, but couldn’t pull off the comeback and dropped the match 11-9.
Finally, senior McIntosh came up short in his championship match against Missouri’s No. 2 J’Den Cox. The well fought match up ended 4-2 in favor of Cox. McIntosh ended his Penn State career as a four-time All-American with a 114-19 collegiate record.
But in the end, every Nittany Lion got one oft those “National Champions” t-shirts.
125: No. 3 Nico Megaludis- 5-0, Champion
133: No. 5 Jordan Conaway- 4-3, 6th Place
141: Jimmy Gulibon- 2-2, DNP
149: No. 1 Zain Retherford- 5-0, Champion and undefeated season
157: No. 3 Jason Nolf- 4-1, 2nd Place
165: Geno Morelli- 2-2, DNP
174: No. 1 Bo Nickal- 4-1, 2nd Place
184: No. 16 Matt McCutcheon- 0-2, DNP
197: No. 1 Morgan McIntosh- 4-1, 2nd Place